MOSCOW, Idaho – It only took two plays for the reality check that not much has changed in the Kibbie Dome despite a shakeup of the defensive staff.
Two snaps after the opening kickoff, Ohio receiver Brendan Cope found himself wide open in the middle of the field, and his 50-yard catch and scamper set up an Ohio touchdown.
Then the floodgates opened, as big plays and mistakes spotted Ohio a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
Mike Breske’s debut as defensive coordinator at Idaho resulted in the Bobcats systematically dismantling his unit as the Vandals allowed Ohio to hit seven passing plays of 15 yards or more and eight rushes of 10 yards or more.
The result was all too familiar: Idaho dropped its season opener 45-28 to Ohio Thursday night at the Kibbie Dome in front of an announced 11,587 fans.
“We can’t do that, that’s beating yourself,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “There’s two turnovers early in the game, and then giving up a few big plays. That has to stop. We can’t do that and expect to be a good team.”
The audio difficulties the Kibbie Dome experienced during team introductions might have been prophetic enough. But it became clear just how nightmarish things would get for Idaho less than a minute after Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick threw a 15-yard corner-fade touchdown to Jordan Reid over a stumbling Idaho safety to make it 14-0.
On the Vandals’ next possession quarterback Matt Linehan’s sharply delivered pass wasn’t controlled by receiver Jacob Sannon and Ohio’s Javon Johnson intercepted the deflected ball and returned it for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
“I trust Jacob as much as anybody on this team. Stuff like that happens,” Linehan said.
Four first-quarter sacks of Idaho’s sophomore quarterback forced the Vandals into a successful quick-passing game, giving Idaho offensive rhythm as the first half went on.
Linehan found Dezmon Epps 14 times, mostly on quick sideline and crossing routes, for 148 yards. Running back Elijhaa Penny also involved himself in the passing game as Idaho’s second-leading receiver at 48 yards.
Idaho clawed its way back into the game for a 21-10 deficit, but Ohio kept coming back to gash Idaho’s defense some more.
Vick hit passes of 50, 23, 30, 15, 18 and 24 yards in the first three quarters. Backup JD Sprague, who saw field time in Ohio’s two-quarterback system, hit a 65-yard toss in the second quarter to set up Ohio’s 28-10 halftime advantage.
To Petrino’s dismay, the run defense didn’t fare much better. Ohio hit five of its eight 10-plus-yard rushes in the second half, taking advantage of overzealous Idaho defensive linemen. Kylan Nelson accentuated Ohio’s big-play night with a 17-yard scamper into the end zone with 42 seconds left in the game.
“I didn’t think they would be able to handle us up front the way they did,” Petrino said. I thought our defensive line would be an advantage over their offensive line, and it was not.”
All things considered, some fourth-quarter magic was maybe one yard away.
Linehan hit Deon Watson in the back of the end zone with 2:34 remaining in the game to cut the deficit to 38-28. Watson followed up by grabbing Austin Rehkow’s ensuing onside kick, except he touched the ball a yard shy of the 10-yard requirement.
“We have to start faster, we have to come out and hit the ground running,” Linehan said. “Football is a game of ups and downs, we can’t give up. And I don’t think we did give up, it was one of those games where we were back in it.”
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